Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Vincent Cross "A Town Called Normal" album review

I am not really sure how to classify Vincent Cross’s music. It has definite bluegrass roots in its instrumentation, but also hints of folk and country. Perhaps, “new-grass” is a better term when attempting to narrow it down. His vocal has a mild twang, that isn’t overbearing and suits the music very well. In my head, I hear nuances of Robert Earl Keen mixed with a bit of Bob Dylan (but perhaps, it’s just being a roots/folk artist that does that) and a touch of Michael Daves high and lonesome on the top. The songs are driven by strong chorus lines with nice hooks, lending them to be crowd pleasers simply after hearing one choral run through.

“Turn Your Eyes” is one of my favorites from the album. It kicks in pretty upbeat and hard with the chorus right off the bat and eases into the verse, to be brought back up again. I really like the flow of up and down that the song brings and the instrumentation is excellent. A nice banjo line, smooth and typical bluegrass guitar, a hint of mandolin chop, and a strong rhythm thump from the upright bass. This tune brings me to summer bluegrass festivals, people dancing out on the grass and just having a good old time. The lyrics are good and strong, easy to hang on to. Cross is able to address and almost hide a somewhat solemn theme within a buoyant and upbeat vessel, a feat that is certainly respectable.

Turn your eyes from the burning sun / she's not what your looking for
she's just brazen just for fun / you know that it's not enough

It’s nice to see someone who appreciates the traditional songs of folk and bluegrass as represented in the inclusion of “The Cuckoo” on this record (though there is dispute on whether its origins are English or American). The songs is very banjo driven with some nice frails and picking throughout the track. It also has a nice breakdown/jam section at the end of the tune that really excites me to hear. A lot of the players in the Americana genre these days have hopped up on the bandwagon without paying homage and respect to what came before them. It is obvious through Cross’s writing style and arrangement choices, that the past is not lost on him.
As a complete work, the instrumentation on this album is impeccable. I may be a bit bias, as its exactly what I love to listen to regardless, but you cannot deny that all the playing is solid and the mix is great. It has hints of the old roots tunes of American, backporch pickin’, but perhaps a bit more contemporary in its presentation. Simply put, it just works. All backed by Cross’s songwriting and powerful and unique vocal, it makes for a great listen and strengthens my belief that roots music is still alive and well in the Northeast.

Check Vincent Cross out online at:         

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